Kuban Cossacks

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Flag of the Kuban Cossacks
Modern Russian stamp

Kuban Cossacks (Russian: Кубанские кaзаки, Kubanskiye Kаzaki; Ukrainian: Кубанські козаки, Kubans'ki Kozaky) or Kubanians (кубанцы, кубанці) are Cossacks who live in the Kuban region of Russia. Most of the Kuban Cossacks are descendants of two major groups of Cossacks who were re-settled to the western Northern Caucasus in the late 18th century. The western part of the host (Taman Peninsula and adjoining region to the northeast) was settled by the Black Sea Cossack Host who were originally the Zaporozhian Cossacks of Ukraine, from 1792. The eastern and southeastern part of the host was previously administered by the Khopyour and Kuban regiments of the Caucasus Line Cossack Host, who were re-settled from the Don from 1777.

The Kuban Cossack Host (Кубанское казачье войско), the administrative and military unit composed of Kuban Cossacks, formed in 1860 and existed till 1918. During the Russian Civil War, the Kuban Cossacks proclaimed a Kuban People's Republic, and played a key role in the southern theatre of the conflict. During the Second World War, Cossacks fought both for the Red Army and Wehrmacht. The modern Kuban Cossack Host was re-established in 1990.

Formation history of the Kuban Cossack Host

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"Zaporozhian Cossacks write to the Sultan of Turkey" by Ilya Repin (1844–1930)
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Although Cossacks lived in the region prior to the late 18th century[1] (one theory of Cossack origin traces their lineage to the ancient Kasog peoples who populated the Kuban in 9th-13th centuries[2]), the landscape prevented permanent habitation. Modern Kuban Cossacks claim 1696 as their foundation year, when the Don Cossacks from the Khopyor took part in Peter's Azov Campaigns. Sporadic raids reached out into the land, which was partially populated by the Nogay, though territorially part of the Crimean khanate. In 1784 the lower Kuban passed to Russia, after which its colonisation became an important step in the Empire's expansion.[3]

Black Sea Cossacks

A memorial to the first settlers in Taman

In a different part of southeastern Europe, on the middle Dnieper in what is now Ukraine, lived the Zaporozhian Cossacks. By the late 18th century however, their combat ability was greatly reduced.[citation needed] With their traditional adversaries, the Crimean Khanate and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth now all but defunct, the Russian administration saw little military use for them. The Zaporozhian Sich, however, represented a safe haven for runaway serfs, where the state authority did not extend, and often took part in rebellions which were constantly breaking out in Ukraine. Another problem for the imperial Russian government was the Cossacks' resistance to colonization of lands the government considered theirs.[4] In 1775, after numerous attacks on Serbian colonisers, the Russian Empress Catherine the Great had Grigory Potemkin destroy the Zaporozhian Host. The operation was carried out by General Pyotr Tekeli.

The Zaporozhians scattered; some (five thousand men or 30% of the host) fled to the Ottoman-controlled Danube area.[5] Others joined the Imperial Russian Husar and Dragoon regiments, while most turned to local farming and trade.

A decade later, the Russian administration was forced to reconsider its decision, with the escalation of tension with the Ottoman Empire. In 1778 the Turkish sultan offered the exiled Zaporozhians the chance to build a new Danubian Sich. Potemkin suggested that the former commanders Antin Holovaty, Zakhary Chepiha and Sydir Bily round the former Cossacks into a Host of the loyal Zaporozhians in 1787.[6]

The new host played a crucial role in the Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792), and for their loyalty and service the Russian Empress rewarded them with eternal use of the Kuban, then inhabited by Nogai remnants, and in the cause of the Caucasus War a crucial progress in further pushing the Russian line into Circassia. Renamed the Black Sea Cossack Host, a total of 25,000 men made the migration in 1792-93.[citation needed]

On the Russian frontier (1777-1860)

Cossack reconnaissance during the Caucasus wars, by Franz Roubaud

During the Russo-Turkish War (1768-1774), the Don Cossacks on the Khopyor River took part in the campaign, and in 1770 - then numbering four settlements - requested to form a regiment. Owing to their service in the war, on 6 October 1774 Catherine the Great issued a manifesto granting their request.[citation needed]

The end of the war and the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca brought Russia's frontiers south from the Kuban River's entry into the Azov Sea along its right bank and right to the bend of the Terek River. This created a 500-verst undefended border, and in the summer of 1777 the Khopyor regiment - in addition to the remnants of the Volga Cossacks and a Vladimir Dragoon regiment - were re-settled in the Northern Caucasus to build the Azov-Mozdok defence line. This marked the start of the Caucasus War, which would continue for almost 90 years.

The Khopyor regiment was responsible for the western flank of the line. In 1778-1782, Khopyor Cossacks founded four stanitsas: Stavropolskaya (next to the fortress of Stavropol, established on 22 October 1777), Moskovskaya, Donskaya and Severnaya - with approximately 140 Cossack families in each. In 1779, the Khopyor regiment was given its own district. The conditions were desperate as the Circassians would mount almost daily raids on the Russian positions. In 1825-1826 the regiment began its first expansions, pushing westwards to the bend of the Kuban River and founding five new stanitsas (the so-called new-Kuban line: Barsukovskaya, Nevinnomysskaya, Belomechetskaya, Batalpashinskaya (modern Cherkessk), Bekeshevskaya and Karantynnaya (currently - Suvorovskaya). In 1828 the Khopyor Cossacks participated in the conquest of Karachay and became part of the first Russian expedition to reach the summit of Elbrus in 1829.[7]

However, the Russian position in the Caucasus was desperate, and to ease administration in 1832 military reform united ten regiments from the mouth of the Terek River all the way to the Khopyor in the western Kabarda, forming a single Caucasus Line Cossack Host. The Khopyor regiment was also given several civilian settlements, raising its manpower to 12,000. With the further advance to the Laba River the Khopyor district was split into two regiments, and Spokoynaya, Ispravnaya, Podgornaya, Udobnaya, Peredovaya, Storozhevaya formed the Laba line.

Zaporozhets beyond the Kuban River

Historic map, showing the initial settlement of the Black Sea Cossacks

Many traditions of the Zaporozhian Cossacks continued in the Black Sea Cossacks, such as the formal election of the host administration, but in some cases, new traditions replaced the old. Instead of a central Sich, a defence line was formed from the Kuban River Black Sea inlet to the Bolshaya Laba River inlet. The land north of this line was settled with villages called stanitsas. The administrative centre of Yekaterinodar (literally "Catherine's gift") was built. The Black Sea Cossacks sent men to many major campaigns at the Russian Empire's demand, such as the suppression of the Polish Kościuszko Uprising in 1794, the ill-fated Persian Expedition of 1796 where nearly half of the Cossacks died from hunger and disease, and sent the 9th plastun (infantry) and 1st joint cavalry regiments as well as the first Leib Guards (elite) sotnia to aid the Russian Army in the Patriotic War of 1812. The new host participated in the Russo-Persian War (1826-1828) where they stormed the last remaining Ottoman bastion of the northern Black Sea coast, the fortress of Anapa, in 1828. In the course of the Crimean War of 1853 to 1856, the Cossacks foiled any attempts of allied landing on the Taman Peninsula, whilst the 2nd and 5th plastun battalions took part in the Defence of Sevastopol.

In the land they left behind, the Buh Cossacks were able to provide a strong buffer from the Danubian Sich. After the Russo-Turkish War (1828–1829) most of the Danube Cossacks officially turned themselves over and under amnesty were resettled between the Mariupol and Berdyansk, forming the Azov Cossack Host.[citation needed]


Late 19th century

As the years went by, the Black Sea Cossacks continued its systematic penetrations into the mountainous regions of the Northern Caucasus. Taking an active part in the finale of the Russian conquest of the Northern Caucasus, they settled the regions each time these were conquered. To aid them, a total of 70 thousand additional ex-Zaporozhians from the Bug, Yekaterinoslav, and finally the Azov Cossack Host migrated there in the mid 19th century. All three of the former were necessary to be removed to vacate space for the colonisation of New Russia, and with the increasing weakness of the Ottoman Empire as well as the formation of independent buffer states in the Balkans, the need for further Cossack presence had ended. They made the migration to the Kuban in 1860. Separating the ethnic Ukrainian Black Sea Cossacks from the Caucasian mountain tribes were the Caucasus Line Cossack Host, ethnic Russian Cossacks from the Don region. Although both groups lived in the general Kuban region, they did not integrate with each other.[8]

Apogee of the Kuban Host

Kubanets a sketch by Franz Roubaud.

The new Host grew to be the second largest in Russia. The Kuban Cossacks continued to make an active part in the Russian affairs of the 19th century starting from the finale of the Russian-Circassian War which ceased shortly after the hosts' formation. A small group took part in the 1873 conquest that brought the Khanate of Khiva under Russian control. Their largest military campaign was the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), on both the Balkan and the Caucasus fronts. The latter in particular was a strong contribution as the Kuban Cossacks made 90% of the Russian cavalry. Famous achievements in the numerous Battles of Shipka, the defence of Bayazet and finally in decisive and victorious Battle of Kars where the Cossacks were the first to enter. Three Kuban Cossack regiments took part in the storming of Geok Tepe in Turkmenistan in 1881. During the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), the host mobilised six cavalry regiments, five plastun battalions and one battery to the distant region of Russia.

The Cossacks also carried out the second strategical objective, the colonisation of the Kuban land. In total, the host owned more than six million tithes, of which 5.7 million belonged to the stanitsas, with the remaining in the reserve or in private hands of Cossack officers and officials. Upon reaching the age of 17, a Cossack would be given between 16 to 30 tithes for cultivation and personal use. With the natural growth of the population, the average land that a Cossack owned decreased from 23 tithes in 1860s to 7.6 in 1917. Such arrangements, however ensured that the colonisation and the cultivation would be very rational.

The military purpose of the Kuban was echoed in its administration pattern. Rather than a traditional Imperial Guberniya (governorate) with uyezds (districts), the territory was administered by the Kuban Oblast which was split into otdels (regions, which in 1888 counted seven). Each otdel would have its own sotnias which in turn would be split into stanitsas and khutors. The Ataman (commander) for each region was not only responsible for the military preparation of the Cossacks, but for the local administration duties. Local Stanitsa and Khutor atamans were elected, but approved by the atamans of the otdel. These, in turn, were appointed by the supreme ataman of the host, who was in turn appointed directly by the Russian Emperor. Prior to 1870, this system of legislature in the Oblast remained a robust military one and all legal decisions were carried out by the stanitsa ataman and two elected judges. Afterwards, however, the system was bureaucratised and the judicial functions became independent of the stanitsas.[citation needed]

The more liberal policy of the Kuban was directly mirrored in the living standards of the people. One of the central features of this was education. Indeed, the first schools were known to have existed since the migration of the Black Sea Cossacks, and by 1860, the host had one male high school and 30 elementary schools.[citation needed] In 1863, the first periodical Кубанские войсковые ведомсти - Kubanskiye voiskovye vedomsti began printing, and two years later the host's library was opened in Yekaterinodar. In all, by 1870, the number of schools in rural stanitsas increased to 170. Compared with the rest of the Russian Empire, by the start of the 20th century the Oblast had a very high literacy rate of 50% and each year up to 30 students from Cossack families (again a rate unmatched by any other rural province) were sent to study in the higher education establishments of Russia.

During the early twentieth century contacts between Kuban and Ukraine were established and clandestine Ukrainian organizations appeared in Kuban.[8]

Uniform and equipment

Until 1914 the Kuban Cossack Host wore a full dress uniform comprising a dark grey/black kaftan (knee length collarless coat) with red shoulder straps and braiding on the wide cuffs. Ornamental containers (czerkeska) which had originally contained single loading measures of gunpowder for muzzle-loading muskets, were worn on the breasts of the kaftans. The kaftan had an open front, showing a red waistcoat.[9] Wide grey trousers were worn, tucked into soft leather boots without heels. Officers wore silver epaulettes, braiding and ferrules, the latter in their czerkeskas.[10] This Caucasian national dress was also worn by the Ural Cossack Host but in different facing colors. Tall black fur hats were worn on all occasions with red cloth tops and (for officers) silver lace. A white metal scroll was worn on the front of the fur hat. A whip was used instead of spurs.[11] Prior to 1908, individual cossacks from all Hosts were required to provide their own uniforms (together with horses, Caucasian saddles and harness). On active service during World War I the Kuban Cossacks retained their distinctive dress but with a black waistcoat replacing the conspicuous red one and without the silver ornaments or red facings of full dress. A black felt cloak (bourki) was worn in bad weather both in peace-time and on active service.

The Kuban and Terek Cossacks of the Imperial Escort (Konvoi) wore a special gala uniform comprising a scarlet kaftan edged with gold braid and white waistcoat.

Russian Revolution and Civil War

During the Russian Revolution and the resulting Civil War, the Cossacks found themselves conflicted in their loyalties. In October 1917, simultaneously the Kuban Soviet Republic and the Kuban Rada were formed, both of whom proclaimed their rights to rule the Kuban, and shortly afterwards the Rada declared a Kuban National Republic but was soon dispersed by Bolshevik forces. Although most of the Cossacks initially sided with the Rada, many joined the Bolsheviks as well, who promised them autonomy.

Kuban Cossacks of the Imperial Escort pose with Nicholas II and his family.

In March 1918, after Lavr Kornilov's successful offensive, the Kuban Rada placed itself under his authority. However, after his death in June 1918 a federative union was signed with the Ukrainian government of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky, after which many Cossacks left to return home or defected to the Bolsheviks. In addition to that, there was an internal struggle among the Kuban cossacks between loyalty towards the Russian Volunteer Army of Denikin and Ukrainian nationalist forces.

On November 6, 1919, Denikin's forces surrounded the Rada, and with the help of the Ataman A. Filimonov arrested ten of its members, including the Ukrainophile, P. Kurgansky, who was the premier of the Rada, and publicly hanged one of them for treason. Many Cossacks joined Denikin and fought in the ranks of the Volunteer Army. In December 1919, after Denikin's defeat and as it became clear that the Bolsheviks would overrun the Kuban, some of the pro-Ukrainian groups attempted to restore the Rada and to break away from the Volunteer Army and fight the Bolsheviks in alliance with Ukraine;[12] however, by early 1920 the Red Army took most of Kuban, and both the Rada and Denikin were evicted.

Establishment of Soviet Power

After the Soviet victory, many Kuban cossacks fled the country to avoid persecution by the Bolsheviks. A notable eviction point was the Greek island of Lemnos where 18 thousand Kuban Cossacks landed, many of whom died of starvation and disease. Soon after the Red Army's victory, the Kuban Cossack Host was officially dissolved. Because of their past loyalty to the Russian Emperor and the White Army, the new Soviet Government viewed all Cossacks as a threat to its still fragile power. An anti-Cossack campaign was implemented and the Kuban Cossack families would endure deliberate segregation as the Bolsheviks gave much of the Forecaucasus territory to the new autonomous provinces of local minorities, and encouraged the settlement of the pre-mountain steppes by the latter, sometimes forcefully evicting the Cossacks from their native homes. Collectivization of the fertile steppe also began. Most of the Cossacks became local peasants and worked in the new conditions. During the Soviet famine of 1932-1934, many Cossacks died of starvation.

World War II

Collaborators in Wehrmacht and Waffen SS

Waffen SS and the Regiment III of Cossacks during Warsaw Uprising. The regiment was composed of both Don and Kuban Cossacks

The first collaborators were formed from Soviet Cossack POWs and deserters after the consequences of the Red Army's early defeats in the course of Operation Barbarossa. After the horrors of Collectivization and Decossackization, in summer of 1942, many of the Germans reaching Kuban were greeted as liberators.[13][14][15] Many Soviet Kuban Cossacks chose to switch to the German side either when in POW camps or on active service in the Soviet Army. For example, Major Kononov deserted on August 22, 1941 with an entire regiment and was instrumental in organizing Cossack volunteers in the Wehrmacht.[13] Some Cossack emigres, such as Andrei Shkuro and Pyotr Krasnov chose to collaborate with the Germans as well and stood at the helm of two Cossack divisions on German service. However, most volunteers came after the Germans reached the Cossack homelands in summer of 1942.[14] The Cossack National Movement of Liberation was set up in hope of mobilizing opposition to the Soviet regime with an intent to rebuild an independent Cossack state.[16]

While there were several smaller Cossack detachments in the Wehrmacht since 1941, the 1st Cossack Division made up of Don, Terek and Kuban Cossacks was formed in 1943. This division was further augmented by the 2nd Cossack Cavalry Division formed in December 1944. Both divisions participated in hostilities against Tito's partisans in Yugoslavia. In February 1945, both Cossack Divisions were transferred into the Waffen-SS and formed the XVth SS Cossack Cavalry Corps. At the end of the war, the Cossack collaborators retreated to Italy and surrendered to the British army, but, under the Yalta agreement, were forcibly repatriated with the rest of the collaborators to the Soviet authorities and some executed.[17] (see Betrayal of the Cossacks)

Red Army Cossacks

Kuban Cossacks at the Moscow Victory Parade of 1945.

Despite the defections that were taking place, the majority of the Cossacks remained loyal to the Red Army.[18] In the earliest battles, particularly the encirlclement of Belostok Cossack units such as the 94th Beloglisnky, 152nd Rostovsky and 48th Belorechensky regiments fought to their death.

In the opening phase of the war, during the German advance towards Moscow, Cossacks became extensively used for the raids behind enemy lines. The most famous of these took place during the Battle of Smolensk under the command of Lev Dovator, whose 3rd Cavalry Corps consisted of the 50th and 53rd Cavalry divisions from the Kuban and Terek Cossacks, which were mobilised from the Northern Caucasus. The raid, which in ten days covered 300 km and destroyed the hinterlands of the IXth German Army, before successfully breaking out.[19] Whilst units under the command of General Pavel Belov, the 2nd Cavalry Corps made from Don, Kuban and Stavropol Cossacks spearheaded the counter-attack onto the right flank of the VIth German Army delaying its advance towards Moscow.

The high professionalism that the Cossacks under Dovator and Belov (both generals would later be granted the title Hero of the Soviet Union and their units raised to a Guards (elite) status) ensured that many new units would be formed. In the end, if the Germans during the whole war only managed to form two Cossack Corps, the Red Army in 1942 already had 17.[18] Many of the newly formed units were filled with ethnically Cossack volunteers. The Kuban Cossacks were allocated to the 10th, 12th and 13th Corps. However, the most famous Kuban Cossack unit would be the 17th Cossack Corps under the command of general Nikolay Kirichenko.

During the opening phase of the Battle of Stalingrad, when the Germans overran the Kuban, the majority of the Cossack population, long before the Germans began their agitation with Krasnov and Shkuro, became involved in Partisan activity.[20][21] Raids onto the German positions from the Caucasus mountains became commonplace. After the German defeat at Stalingrad, the 4th Guards Kuban Cossack Corps, strengthened by tanks and artillery, broke through the German lines and liberated Mineralnye Vody, and Stavropol.

For the latter part of the war, although the Cossacks did prove especially useful in reconnaissance and rear guards, the war did show that the age of horse cavalry had come to an end. The famous IVth Guards Kuban Cossack Regiment which took part in heavy fighting in the course of the liberation of Southern Ukraine and Romania was allowed to proudly march on the Red Square in the famous Victory parade of 1945.

Modern Kuban Cossacks

Following the war, the Cossack regiments, along with remaining cavalry were disbanded and removed from the Soviet armed forces as they were thought to be obsolete.

Starting in the late 1980s, there were renewed efforts to revive Cossack traditions which went to great lengths; in 1990, the Host was once again recognised by the Supreme Ataman of the All-Great Don Host (Всевеликое Войско Донское). At this time some pro-Ukrainian sentiment emerged among some Kuban Cossack leaders. For example, when in May 1993 Cossack leader Yevhen Nahai was arrested and accused of plotting a coup, another Coccack leader (kish otaman Pyuypenko) threatened to call for support for Ukraine if Nahai's rights were violated. A march of cossack cavalry from eastern Ukraine to Kuban was met with some enthusiasm by locals.[22]

The Cossacks have actively participated in some of the more abrupt political developments following the dissolution of the Soviet Union: South Ossetia, Crimea, Kosovo, Transnistria and Abkhazia. The latter conflict was in particular special for the Kuban Cossacks, initially a number of Cossacks fled from the de-Cossackization repressions of the 1920s and assimilated with the Abkhaz people. Before the Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict there was a strong movement of creating an Abkhaz-Kuban Host among the descendants. When the civil war broke out, 1500 Kuban Cossack volunteers from Russia came to aid the Abkhaz side. One of the notable groups was the 1st sotnia under the command of Ataman Nikolay Pusko which reportedly completely destroyed a Ukrainian volunteer group fighting on the Georgian side and then went on to be the first to enter Sukhumi in 1993.[23] Since then, a detachment of Kuban Cossacks continue to inhabit Abkhazia, and their presence continues to influence the Georgian-Russian relations.

According to human rights reports from the 1990s, the Cossacks regularly harassed non-Russians, such as Armenians and Chechens, living in southern Russia.[24]

With the help of the governor of Krasnodar Kray Alexander Tkachev, the host has become an integral part of the Kuban life, there are joint combat training operations with the Russian Army, policing of the rural areas with the Militsiya, preparation of local youth for the draft service. Not only is their aid in military, during the floods in 2004 of the Taman Peninsula they provided men and equipment for relief missions. Today, the host numbers 25 thousand men and has its own distinct forces: a whole regiment of the 7th 'Cherkassy' Guards Air-Assault Division (the 108th "Kuban Cossack' Guards Airborne Regiment) in the Russian VDV; 205th Motorised Rifle Brigade, within the North Caucasus Military District in the Russian Ground Forces, in addition to border guards.

On August 2, 2012, Governor of the Krasnodar Krai, Alexander Tkachyov announced a controversial plan to deploy a paramilitary force of one thousand unarmed but uniformed Kuban Cossacks in the region to help police patrols. The cossacks were to be charged with preventing what he described as "illegal immigration" from the neighboring Caucasian republics.[25]

Modern patch.


Because of the unique migration pattern that the original Zaporozhian Cossacks undertook, the Kuban Cossack identity has produced one of the most distinct cultures not only amongst other Cossacks but throughout the whole Russian identity. The proximity to the Caucasus mountains and the Circassian people influenced the dress and uniform of the Cossacks — the distinctive Cherkesska overcoat and the bashlyk scarf, local dance such as the Lezginka too came into the Kuban Cossack lifestyle. At the same time, the Cossacks continued much of their Zaporozhian legacy, including a Kuban Bandura movement and the Kuban Cossack Choir which became one of the most famous in the world for their performance of Cossack and other folk songs and dances, performed in both the Russian and Ukrainian languages.[26]

National identity

The concept of national and ethnic identity of the Kuban Cossacks has changed with time and has been the subject of much contention.

In the 1897 census, 47.3% of the Kuban population (including extensive 19th century non-Cossack migrants from both Ukraine and Russia) referred to their native language as Little Russian while 42.6% referred to their native language as Great Russian.[27]

Most cultural production in Kuban from the 1890-1910 period, such as plays, stories, etc., were written and performed in the Little Russian/Ukrainian language, and one of the first political parties in Kuban was the Ukrainian Revolutionary Party. During World War I, Austrian officials received reports from a Ukrainian organization of the Russian Empire that 700 Kuban Cossacks in eastern Galicia had been arrested by their Russian officers for refusing to fight against Ukrainians in the Austrian army.[28] Briefly during the Russian Civil War, the Kuban Cossack Rada declared Ukrainian to be the official language of the Kuban Cossacks, before its suppression by the Russian White leader General Denikin. [2].

After the Bolshevik Victory in the Russian Civil War, the Kuban was viewed as one of the most hostile regions to the young Communist state. In his 1923 speech devoted to the national and ethnic issues in the party and state affairs, Joseph Stalin identified several obstacles in implementing the national programme of the party. Those were the "dominant-nation chauvinism", "economic and cultural inequality" of the nationalities and the "remenants of nationalism among a number of nations which have borne the heavy yoke of national oppression".[29] For the Kuban, this was met with a unique approach. The victim/minority became the non-Cossack peasants[30] who, like their counterparts in New Russia, were mixed population group, with an ethnic Ukrainian majority. To counter "dominant-nation chauvinism" a policy of Ukrainization/Korenization was introduced. According to the 1926 census, there were already nearly a million Ukrainians registered in the Kuban Okrug alone (or 62% of the total population)[31]

In addition to that, 700 schools with Ukrainian as the language of instruction were opened, and the Kuban Pedagogical Institute had its own Ukrainian department. Numerous Ukrainian-language newspapers such as Chornomorets and Kubanska Zoria were published. Historian A.L. Pawliczko even claims there was an attempt to have a referendum on the joining of Kuban to the Ukrainian SSR.[32] In 1930 the Ukrainian Minister ("People’s Komissar") Mykola Skrypnyk, involved in solving national issues in the Ukrainian SSR, had put forward an official proposal to Joseph Stalin that the territories of Voronezh, Kursk, Chornomoriya, Azov, Kuban regions be administered by the government of the Ukrainian SSR.

By the end of 1932, the Ukrainization programme was reversed, and by the late 1930s the majority of Kuban Ukrainians identified themselves as Russians[33] As a result, in the 1939 census, Russians in the Kuban were a majority of 2754027 or 86%[34] The 2nd edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia explicitly named the Kuban Cossacks as Russians.

The modern Kuban vernacular known as balachka differs from contemporary literary Russian and is most similar to the dialect spoken in central Ukraine near Cherkassy [35] Some regions the vernacular includes many Northern Caucasus words and accents. The influence of Russian grammatical forms is also apparent.

Like many other Cossacks, some refuse to accept themselves as part of the standard ethnic Russian people, and claim to be a separate subgroup on par with sub-ethnicities such as the Pomors. In the 2002 Russian census[36] the Cossacks were allowed to a have distinct nationality as a separate Russian sub-ethnical group. The Kuban Cossacks living in Krasnodar Kray, Adygea, Karachayevo-Cherkessia and some regions of Stavropol Krai and Kabardino-Balkaria counted 25,000 men. However, the strict governance of the census meant that only Cossacks who are in active service were treated as such, and at the same time 300,000 families[37] are registered by the Kuban Cossack Host. Kuban Cossacks not politically affiliated with the Kuban Cossack Host, such as the director of the Kuban Cossack Choir Viktor Zakharchenko, have maintained at various times a pro-Ukrainian orientation.[38] Zakharchenko has recently changed his position and proposes a unification of Ukraine and Russia.[39]

All Russia 145,166,731 140,028
Republic Total population Cossacks
Adygea 447,109 470
Kabardino-Balkaria 901,494 307
Karachayevo-Cherkessia 439,470 2,501
Krasnodar Krai 5,125,221 17,542
Stavropol Krai 2,231,759 3,902
Total in Kuban 9,145,053 24,722


Early 20th century

Within the Empire, the Kuban land was administered through the Kuban Oblast with a semi-military administration. It was composed of seven subdivisions (otdels), and numbered 1.3 million people (278 stanitsas and 32 khutors). Kuban Cossacks formed regular units of the Imperial Russian Army as listed below. The following lists the structure prior to the outbreak of World War I, although this would be re-organised during the conflict (see foot-note).

In peacetime the Host provided 10 horse regiments making up a Kuban Cossack division, six plastun (infantry) battalions and six horse-artillery batteries; in addition to irregular and support units. The "first" regiments were linked to the specific locales that they were recruited from, although they would often be deployed elsewhere in the Empire. In wartime, recruits were drafted from each region to form "second" regiments during the stage of initial mobilization. If further manpower was required, a "third" regiment would be formed to be dispatched as reinforcements. During World War One a total of 37 horse (cavalry) regiments were raised by the Kuban Cossack Host.

A 1916 map of Kuban Oblast with the neighboring Black Sea Governorate and part of Sukhumi Okrug (Russian)



  • Kuban Cossack Division (after the outbreak of World War Ithe Russian Army began reforming this system along modern lines, but only one division was in existence in 1914)


As noted the plastun units served as infantry. On mobilization an additional six battalions (numbered 7th through 12th) were added to the peacetime establishment, and a further two (13th and 14th) raised as reserve units. The effectiveness of these units was demonstrated during the war, particularly the Caucasus Front and by 1917 a total of 22 battalions, comprising one division plus four brigades, were on active service. A further three battalions were in reserve.

Horse artillery:

In addition there four commands that were responsible for support and home front organisation in the Kuban (supplies, hospitals etc.): Ust-Labinskaya, Armavirskaya, Labinskaya and Batalpashinskaya.

From 1914 to 1917 the Kuban Cossack Host committed a total of 89 thousand men to the Russian war effort. These included 37 horse regiments, a cavalry division, 2 mounted regiments recruited from mountain peoples (Adyghe and Karachay), six convoy (Imperial Guard) escort half-sotnias, two Leib Guard HIH personal sotnias, 4 infantry plastun brigades (22 battalions), a special plastun division, nine horse artillery batteries, four reserve horse regiments and three reserve plastun battalions.

Russian Civil War

See also

Notes and citations

  1. See Nekrasov Cossacks
  2. Пьянков А.В. (Краснодар). Касоги/касахи/кашаки письменных источников и археологические реалии Северо-Западного Кавказа
  3. История создания Старой линии и предпосылки создания Кавказского линейного казачьего войска
  4. Orest Subtelny Ukraine a history History of Ukraine. Retrieved on July 4, 2008.
  5. Taras Chukhlib Alexander Suvorov in Ukrainian history, Pravda.org.ua Retrieved on 21 April
  6. V.Golubtsky Black Sea Cossack Host from the Large Soviet Encyclopedia Retrieved on 22 April 2007.
  7. "К 300-летию Хоперского полка — основателя и защитника нашего города — Публикации - Невинномысскiй хронографЪ".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 Anna Procyk. (1995). Russian Nationalism and Ukraine: The Nationality Policy of the Volunteer Army During the Civil War Toronto: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at University of Toronto, pg. 36
  9. Emmanuel, Vladimir A. The Russian Imperial Cavalry in 1914. pp. 90 & 91 & 105. ISBN 978-0-9889532-1-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Preben Kannik, page 236 "Military Uniforms of the World in Colour"
  11. page 591 of volume 27, The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition
  12. Kubijovic, V.. (1963). Ukraine: A Concise Encyclopedia. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pp. 790–793.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Samuel J. Newland The Cossack Volunteers".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Cossacks in the German Army, 1941-1945". Retrieved 2007-09-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Stalin's Enemies "Combat Magazine" ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 03 Number 01 Winter
  16. Lt. Gen Wladyslaw Anders and Antonio Munoz Russian Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WWII
  17. Gabby de Jong, Yalta Agreement Retrieved
  18. 18.0 18.1 Shambarov, Valery (2007). Kazachestvo Istoriya Volnoy Rusi. Algorithm Expo, Moscow. ISBN 978-5-699-20121-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Kochetov V.N. (2005). "General Dovator". Preobrazheniye. 7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Kuban Today, Vol.7 В годы суровых испытаний about partisan movement on the Kuban by V. Turov, 6 May 1998
  21. Fire of war.ru — Anthology of various historians of the Partisan Activity in the Krasnodar Kray Retrieved 15 Oct, 2007
  22. Serhiy Plokhy.(2008). Ukraine and Russia: Representations of the Past. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pg. 179
  23. "Кубанские казаки берут Сухуми 11 February 2004". Retrieved 2007-04-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Russia: Cossacks and their role in Sochi (Krasnodar Krai). U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services/United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 27 August 1999.
  25. Cossacks to crack down on migrants in southern Russian region that will host 2014 Olympics. The Washington Post. August 6, 2012.
  26. History of the Kuban Cossack Choir, from official website
  27. Demoscope.ru, 1897 census results for the Kuban Oblast
  28. Mark von Hagen. (2007). War in a European Borderland: Occupations and Occupation Plans in Galicia and Ukraine, 1914-1918. Seattle, Washington: Washington University Press. p. 57
  29. "National Factors in Party and State Affairs – Theses for the Twelfth Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), approved by the Central Committee of the Party". Retrieved
  30. Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, Cornell University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8014-8677-7 [1]
  31. Kuban Okrug from the 1926 census demoscope.ru
  32. Ukraine and Ukrainians Throughout the World, edited by A.L. Pawliczko, University of Toronto Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8020-0595-0
  33. Kaiser, Robert (1994). The Geography of Nationalism in Russia and the USSR. Princeton University Press, New Jersey. ISBN 0-691-03254-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. Krasnodar kray, 1939 census results, available at demoscope.ru
  35. Literaturnaya Rossiya, Flag of Kuban, Vol. 27 06.07.2001 by N. Litvinov Retrieved 15 October 2007.
  36. "Russian census 2002". Retrieved 2007-04-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. ИА REGNUM for Rustrana.ru, 21 October 2005 Retrieved on 23 April 2007
  38. The politics of identity in a Russian borderland province: the Kuban neo-Cossack movement, 1989-1996, by Georgi M. Derluguian and Serge Cipko; Europe-Asia Studies; December 1997 URL
  39. Official website of the Kuban Cossack Chorus, Retrieved 15 October 2007

External links